The Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers have already matched up three times this season and every game has ended the same: in a 3-2 win for the Penguins, all going to OT (one ended in a shootout). The Panthers must feel they're this close to getting over the hump and beating good teams around the league like the defending champs, but "this close" has only resulted in two out of a possible six points, which isn't going to cut it.
Steven Reinprecht started the scoring in the first for Florida off on a nifty hand-eye coordination goal to bat a puck baseball style out of the air and in the net. Under three minutes later, Pascal Dupuis took advantage of 18 year old defenseman Dmitri Kulikov making a play an 18 year old sometime makes, when he tripped. Dupuis made a nifty shoulder shake to his backhand which froze Tomas Vokoun and quickly moved back to his fore-hand and unleashed a perfect top shelf wrister.
Noted goal scorer Mike Rupp made a great play in the second period for the second Penguins' goal. Rupp softly dumped the puck in, and as both defensemen (Dennis Seidenberg and Bryan McCabe) went into the corner to retrive it. Noted laid a hit that disrupted both defenseman and Evgeni Malkin ended up with the puck. Malkin walked out of the corner, and found Ruslan Fedotenko all alone in front for an easy,slam dunk goal.
Florida would tie the game early in the third when McCabe jumped out of the penalty box and got a break. Brent Johnson made a stop but the puck eluded him, Johnny sprawled out for it but Stephen Weiss was able to curl and drag just in time and finish on the abanon net to tie the game.
No score until the overtime session, the Pens earned a powerplay when Jordan Staal bulled to the net and was tackled by Jordan Leopold. The ensuing faceoff was won cleanly by Sidney Crosby to Malkin, who passed to Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar and Malkin closed in, Bill Guerin got in a screening position and the puck was passed back to Malkin who quickly unleashed a heavy slapshot to the top corner. Game.
- FSN unleashed a great stat, the Penguins are now 22-0-0 when they score 3+ goals in a game. And with the talent they have, it's not terribly difficult to get 3 goals a night.
- The Pens are also 5-1 when they where their alternate third jerseys, which some fans consider cursed or bad luck. A couple more wins and that sentiment will fade.
- It was a two-headed monster night. The big boys combined for 13 shots on goal (7 by Crosby, 6 by Malkin), 22:09 of ice-time for Geno, 21:54 for Sid, and Crosby dominated in the faceoff circle winning 18 of his 24 draws.
- Chris Kunitz eased back into the lineup with 14:14 played and 2 shots on goal (5 total attempts). In fact, tonight was the first game that the Penguins got to use every one of their regulars (no one injured).
- With Eric Godard a healthy scratch, Mike Rupp was the low-man with just 9 shifts and 6:09 of icetime, even though he made a great play to setup a goal. In close games with a lot of PP and PK time, the Noted one probable isn't going to get a lot of ice, but it was good to see him do well with what he got.
- Pittsburgh officially out-hit Florida 34-13. Home town scoring advantage? The statisticans did charge the Pens with 12 giveaways (double the number of Florida's 6), so they can't be considered totally one-sided.
- The much maligned PP went 0 for 5 before Malkin drove home the G-Dub. 1 for 6 isn't great, but in a one goal game, we'll take it.
A hard fought game, but the cream rose to the top with the OT winner. The Pens keep pace with New Jersey at the top of the Atlantic Division, and now we get to look forward to the full lineup getting a home and home series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday and Thursday. The Flyers have a new coach and are a desperate team that's currently outside of the playoff bubble. You just know it's going to be an intense, playoff-like atmosphere in December.